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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Chefs

First Summer BLT

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Black Pig Meat Co.

About a month ago I went to a Sonoma County event and came away with a rare treat: some Black Pig Meat Co. bacon. The company, founded by Sonoma chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu and Bovolo, makes a mean bacon.  They dry-cure heritage-breed, hormone-free pigs for up to three weeks, then finish them off with applewood smoke. The country has long been nuts for swine, using it in everything from cocktails to chocolate, but for me, the only way I was going to eat this bacon was in a BLT. I froze my stash in anticipation of summer tomatoes at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market in Brooklyn, and this weekend I was rewarded: I only needed two of the thick-cut slices and the thinnest sliver of tomato to make the perfect sandwich. It'll be hard to get me to stray from this classic combo, but these F&W variations on the BLT have definitely caught my eye.

Ingredients

Fefferoni—My New Favorite Pickled Chile

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Fefferoni--a pickled chile from Macedonia.

© Kristin Donnelly

I stop into Kalustyans every few months to pick up a bottle of cocktail bitters or a bag of the sexy black beluga lentils, and I always find something there I’ve never seen. Most recently, I left with a jar of Va-Va’s Grilled (and pickled) Fefferoni. The skinny finger-size yellow chile pepper is native to the Balkan region and can range from mild to hot. The ones in the jar I snagged are quite fiery and have a lightly smoky flavor from being grilled. I’ve chopped them to add to everything from steamed mussels to grilled cheese sandwiches. The brine is so deliciously garlicky that I want to spike everything with it—including a salad made with those lentils.

Here are more recipes I’d add them to:
Deviled Egg Spread

Chickpea and Spinach Stew

Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Farro Salad with Squid and Chorizo

Cheddar-Polenta Biscuits with Ham Salad

News

Dogfish Head Brewery’s New Syrups

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syrup

© Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head Brewery's new maple syrups.

Usually when Dogfish Head Brewery’s founder Sam Calagione drops me a note it's to share details about his latest brewing innovation or some radical new beer. But he surprised me (as he usually does) with his newest release, an artisanal, naturally-spiced maple syrup. Calagione has been using maple syrup harvested from his family’s western Massachusetts farm in Dogfish Head’s original might put something in here like "beers like" - wasn't clear to me until i got to IPA that these were beers. Immort Ale, 75 Minute IPA and Life & Limb. He’s now working with Ripley Farm Sugarhouse to make small batches of exotic maple syrups that echo the flavors of some of Dogfish Head’s best brews (the Immort maple syrup has been simmered with organic juniper berries and Madagascar vanilla beans for a sweet and sticky riff on Dogfish Head's Immort Ale. There’s also one modeled after Dogfish Head’s Belgian-style wit beer, flavored with organic orange peel and coriander. The syrups will be sold on Dogfish Head Brewery's website and at the Rehoboth, Delaware, brewery starting May 19. The syrups are lovely on pancakes but even more fantastic drizzled on vanilla ice cream.  

Menus

Cooking with Native Edibles

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soup

© James
Spring Onion Soup from James.

 

The trend of foraging for ingredients continues to grow, even in New York City. To promote the 778 plant species native to the five boroughs, botanist Mariellé Anzelone created NYC Wildflower Week, which runs May 1-9. New York City chefs are featuring dishes made from native edible plants like ramps, fiddlehead ferns and nettles on their menus and hosting salon-style “Wild Tastings” (dinners with guest foragers).  Galen Zamarra of MAS Farmhouse is preparing trout piscator  stuffed with wild ramp and smoked trout mousse and Bryan Calvert of James  is serving an awesome spring onion soup with boar lardon and pecorino. Foragers looking for new recipe ideas should check out chef-author Louisa Shafia’s native edibles cooking class tomorrow where she’ll be teaching guests how to make stinging nettle pesto and lamb’s-quarters-and-pea-shoots soup.

 

 

Ingredients

Are Ramps Being Wiped Out?

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It seems that this year, the popularity of ramps is at an all-time high. But it saddens me to see ramps on every menu and in huge bunches at farmer's markets. The Canadian Biodiversity Project states that over harvesting is the number one cause of ramp-growth decline. And according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, ramps are “a species of conservation concern.” (Canada even has harvesting restrictions on the slow-growing plant—a sign of how serious they consider the issue to be.) When I forage, whether it’s for wild boletus mushrooms (also known as porcini), fiddleheads or ramps, I only pick a few and leave most behind. I'd like everyone to please do the same. Don’t be ramp hogs.

Menus

Dinner at New Delhi's Varq

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jalebi

© Taj Hotels
Varq's haute take on jalebis.

 

For our May travel issue, we polled chefs, sommeliers and food writers around the globe to come up with the 100 best new food and drink experiences on the planet. Varq restaurant in New Delhi made the cut, and it ended up being my most revelatory meal in India.  

Chef Hemant Oberoi, the Taj hotel group's corporate chef and the visionary behind Varq, and his right-hand man at Varq, executive chef Ankit Sharma, have taken India's street foods and traditional regional dishes and modernized them by applying new techniques and introducing new ingredients, like scallops and foie gras--then serving those dishes on Thomas Keller–designed Limoges china in a very glamorous dining room.

Ganderi kebab, minced chicken marinated with spices, gets deep-fried on a sugarcane stick so that it looks like a corn dog and served in a shot glass with amchur chutney in the bottom. Atta raan, perhaps the most theatrical dish on the menu, is a supertender leg of lamb that has been marinated in mace, cardamom and red chile and baked in a saffron-dough shell. I adored his refined take on the street snacks that I'd been dubiously eating the past week. I'd become addicted to jalebi, a sticky, sugar-high-inducing sweet that looks like a mini funnel cake and has the electric orange color of Cheetos. On the street they are fried in enormous cast-iron pans, fished out of sizzling pools of oil and eaten piping hot. At Varq, they are perfectly shaped spirals of warm, crunchy dough, more yellow than orange (the result of less-sugary syrup), decorated with silver leaf and lined up side by side with a pistachio yogurt for dipping.

When I later met up with Oberoi, I asked him why I can't find that kind of Indian restaurant in New York City. He let me in on a little secret: He's planning a stand-alone Varq in NYC for the near future.

Recipes

Springtime for Chefs

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© Con Poulos
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring and Tom Colicchio is all a-Twitter about ramps. “It’s spring in NY bring on the ramps,” he Tweeted yesterday. He’s not the only chef excited about spring ingredients: At a recent benefit event for C-CAP, Shaun Hergatt from SHO Shaun Hergatt told me that he can't wait to cook with spring peas and is planning to serve them with sous-vide lamb; Craig Koketsu of the seasonally-driven restaurant Park Avenue Spring is impatiently anticipating rhubarb.

Here are a few recipes for ramps, spring peas and rhubarb to help kick off the season. Plus, check out these 100+ recipes in F&W’s Guide to Fresh Spring Produce:

White Cheese Pizza with Ramps
Spring Peas with Mint
Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb (Pictured)

Farms

The Butcher & The Vegetarian

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Tara Austen Weaver's The Butcher and The Vegetarian

© Rodale
Tara Austen Weaver's The Butcher and The Vegetarian

Anyone looking for a friendly, approachable survey of the current debate between carnivores and vegetarians might enjoy Tara Austen Weaver’s new memoir, The Butcher & The Vegetarian. The writer, who was raised vegetarian, explores her own feelings about eating meat and doing without, taking a field trip to the certified-humane Prather Ranch, and taking a meat cookery lesson with Guy Prince, a.k.a. Mr. Biggles, the founder of the food blog Meathenge. Weaver even describes her shock at discovering in F&W that vegetarian icon Mollie Katzen now occasionally eats meat. After the jump, Weaver, who divides her time between San Francisco and Seattle, shares her favorite destinations in both cities for carnivores, vegetable lovers and folks in between.

[More]

Restaurants

David Bouley's New Japanese Obsession

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bouley

© Danielle Falcone
Bouley's Japanese bites on imari porcelain.

 

Last night, star chef David Bouley  turned his fabulous Tribeca test kitchen into a showroom for the latest interpretations of Imari porcelain, a style of porcelain made in the tiny town of Arita in Japan’s Saga prefecture. Young artists and designers like Tsuji Satoshi are making cool new designs inspired by traditional style. Bouley plans to use many of the pieces at his forthcoming Japanese restaurant. And of course, the dishes weren't left empty. Bouley, along with chefs Isao Yamada and Tadao Miakmi (Bouley Upstairs), Noriyuki Sugie and chefs from the Tsuji Culinary Institute of Japan prepared some ridiculously good dishes using wild Japanese ingredients like barafu, a leafy green that looks like it's covered in dew, with a salty taste and great crunch.

Ingredients

Philadelphia's Green Aisle Grocery

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Green Aisle Grocery in Philadelphia.

© Adam Erace
Green Aisle Grocery in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At F&W lately, we’ve been talking about the reinvention of the general store. My favorite new example is Green Aisle Grocery in South Philadelphia, opened by Philadelphia Weekly restaurant critic Adam Erace and his brother Andrew. Are there cult favorites like Stumptown coffee, Anson Mills grits and DRY soda? Check. But the thimble-sized space also manages to stock locavore staples like pastured eggs, seasonal produce and grass-fed milk (including raw milk—for the cats, of course). And cocktail hounds will love the Fee Brothers bitters and Q Tonic water. (Sadly, only state-controlled stores are allowed to sell liquor in Pennsylvania.) Perhaps the most exciting items for sale are the prepared foods from Philadelphia restaurants—Zahav chef Michael Solomonov’s hummus, Pierre Calmel’s pumpkin bread from the white-hot Bibou, and the seasonal mostarde from James's Jim Burke (an F&W Best New Chef2008). If you’re not quite local (and gosh, I wish I were), you can order products by e-mailing the Erace brothers at greenaisle@gmail.com.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.